A former Portland State University professor was convicted and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for possessing and posting child porn to social media sites.
Niles Lehman, 57, who previously worked at PSU as a chemistry professor and had also conducted research for NASA, was sentenced Monday, July 8 after pleading no contest to two counts of encouraging child sex abuse. According to the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office, the crimes happened between October and December 2017, while Lehman was still teaching.
Lehman became the subject of an FBI investigation after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children notified authorities of a tip received through NCMEC's cyber tipline. Portland Police Bureau's sex crimes unit took over the investigation in August 2018, and learned through a search warrant that Lehman used a secondary social media account to send and receive child porn, the D.A.'s Office noted.
"A forensic evaluation of Lehman's cell phone revealed hundreds of child pornography of female victims between the ages of three and 12 being raped and sexually abused," prosecutors said.
Lehman has resigned from his position and the state university has since removed his teaching profile from its website.
Court documents indicate Lehman was indicted in February on 29 counts of first-degree encouraging child sex abuse and six additional counts for the same crime in the second degree. He pleaded not guilty but eventually pleaded no contest to two first-degree counts in a plea deal that saw the rest of the charges dismissed.
Lehman was sentenced to 30 months in prison, with credit for time served, three years of post-prison probation, and must register as a sex offender.
"The State believes this is an appropriate sentence that holds Niles Lehman accountable for his actions of viewing, sharing and uploading these horrible images of child pornography," said Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney BJ Park, who prosecuted the case. "The harm done to a child who is sexually abused is enormous, both physically and emotionally. This office remains committed to protecting children from all forms of exploitation, identifying offenders, pursuing justice and stopping further abuse."
Prior to his arrest and conviction, Lehman worked for PSU since 2001, receiving a $600,000 Templeton grant in 2016 to help fund his research into the origins of life, according to the university.
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